Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Chen tries a new strategy

A NEW ATTITUDE The president has had to soften his strategy toward the opposition, which managed to hold on to a slight legislative majority in last week's elections


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is taking a conciliatory approach toward his political opponents after his party failed to gain a majority in last week's legislative elections, and analysts said he might even invite some of his rivals to join the new Cabinet.

The Dec. 11 vote was a rare setback for Chen, crushing his dream of winning an absolute majority in the legislature while simultaneously ending Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) image as a perennial loser.

Chen and Lien have been bitter enemies for most of the past five years, but their rivalry has softened since last week's parliamentary election, with Chen modest in defeat and Lien generous in victory.

Chen, 53, said Tuesday that he needed to be more "humble" and "review and readjust our steps."

He also resigned as chairman of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), possibly signaling that he will try to go back to his original strategy of being a "president for all the people" who focuses on building consensus rather than pushing a party line. Analysts predicted the president would go outside his circle of supporters in forming a new Cabinet, which will take office on Feb. 1.

"Chen has no real majority in the legislature, so he will invite representatives from different parties in the next Cabinet to seek acceptance from society," said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), executive director of the Institute of National Policy Research in Taipei.

Chen's resignation from the DPP might also allow him to be slightly more flexible on the China issue and less beholden to the radical wing in his party that is pushing for immediate independence.

On Tuesday, however, the president repeated his support for policies, including creating a new Taiwanese identity and building "a normal, complete, progressive, beautiful and great nation."

Chen's DPP and its allies won 101 out of 225 seats in last week's poll, while the opposition alliance led by the KMT took a slight majority of 114. The rest went to independents.

For Lien, 68, the victory has made it easier to be more conciliatory toward Chen. Lien dropped his demand that the opposition be in charge of forming the next Cabinet, instead of just asking Chen to take his party's opinions into account.

The win also made it easier for Chen to respond to long-standing demands within his own party to step down. He announced Friday that he will retire next August.

"If you leave on a positive note, everyone will remember you," says Ho Szu-yin (何思因), a political scientist at Taipei's National Chengchih University who has close ties to the KMT.

He added that Lien can leave with the feeling that "effective checks and balances on Chen are already in place."

Nevertheless, the volatile nature of politics in Taiwan leaves open the question whether the current harmonious mood will continue, he said.

"Lien and Chen will not talk ugly, but there will still be sharp competition on the issues," Ho said.

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